FIFA 13 on the Nintendo Wii U offers a satisfying overall experience but inherently the unique features of the system are not completely natural to take advantage of during free-flowing gameplay. It looks and runs beautifully with the new hardware but a few features and gameplay enhancements are notable in their absence. Still this might be the best sports game available to go along with the launch of the system.
The appeal with the Wii U, at least when compared to the 360 and PS3 versions of FIFA 13, comes with the tablet controller. It offers the ability to take advantage of touch screen shooting, passing, tackling, and team management tasks. While the functions work as intended they don’t always make sense within the context of the game. Check out screens from the tutorial here.
The biggest issue that arises is the need to take eyes off the action in order to use the touch screen or make desired changes. There is no way to avoid that when looking down at the tablet and pulling up another screen that obscures the action there as well. Functions like shaking the pad to bring up a “net” allowing for the touch selection of shot aim is difficult to do elegantly when attempting to get into position for the opportunity. Touch screen passing or tackling though is handled really well. What works best is when the action stops for free, penalty, or corner kicks as full concentration can then be directed to the touch screen without neglecting everything else.
There are three options for control configurations. “Classic”, “Alternate”, and “Two Button”. Otherwise the control schemes are not customizable. For the most part they translate pretty well but there will be a learning curve due to the different mapping and hand placement.
Because the need to controls players in standard games makes it difficult to utilize the tablet controller fully Manage Mode is where the game shines on Wii U. Having all the options laid out on the touch screen is pretty much ideal. Making substitutions, monitoring performance, and changing formations and tactics are joined with the ability to assign actions to players without the constant need to move them around on the pitch manually.
Performance wise the game runs in excellent fashion. There is no issue with framerate (as was found in Madden NFL 13) and graphically is on par with the 360/PS3. Where it falters is in the number of omissions which essentially make it more like playing FIFA 12 with the tablet features than a true FIFA 13.
The “Impact Engine” physics system is not nearly as refined, there is no “First Touch” ball-handling system, Online Team Play and Skill Games are absent, and there is no Ultimate Team mode (no DLC system active yet on the Wii U probably explains why). These things will all stand out to anyone who’s played FIFA 13 on the other systems. For those who haven’t it may not matter all that much.
FIFA 13 is a strong launch effort that is worth considering for those who aren’t already dedicated fans of the series or would enjoy Manage mode with the tablet functionality at hand. However anyone who already owns or has spent a decent amount of time with the 360/PS3 version of FIFA the last two years will probably find the lack of gameplay improvements and other missing features too great to overlook.